I have now spoken with Helimax Films, on whose site the original of this video is still available and once more with Leo Burnett.
The view from Ben Jones, who appears to be prime mover behind Helimax is that this was an ad officially produced for Leo Burnett, on behalf of P&G. On pressing Ben a little, he agrees that he could not know whether it was directly commissioned by P&G: the role of Helimax is to produce to its best ability on the basis of scripts delivered and that it did.
He does recall remarking at the time that it might prove controversial.
The ad appears to have gone up on the Helimax site in the last couple of months – and from there it has been lifted, as such ads often are, by other sites, which is why it is now suddenly in the news.
However, as far as Ben is concerned, the actual production work took place three or more years back.
A spokesperson for Leo Burnett is still chasing this one down. She believes it was put together under the creative auspices of Jim Thornton, who now divides his time between the UK and US: but she wasn’t with Leo B at the time it was created, so she is paddling hard to try and work out the basis on which it was produced.
As already reported, P&G have issued a statement in which they utterly disassociate themselves from the ad. That, for now, is the official position and we shall have to wait until tomorrow to discover whether that story changes once the Leo Burnett statement is in… or whether P&G are playing 100% straight and it turns out that this was something experimental produced by LB which has now crept out into the wild.
I am not sure that there are going to be any further developments in this story tonight…but will update if anything does break.
The ultimate irony, perhaps, is that this ad was probably desinged to be viral by being controversial. Now that it is “out”, it is proving that it does indeed live up precisely to the intentions of its creators…except that its virality is not exactly happening where its creators would have wished it to happen.
For it is doing the rounds of a very angry trans community, where it is doing untold damage to P&G’s reputation – and that is being closely followed by a lift-off in the world of feminist opinion, which so far seems equally unamused.
More seriously, i await the legal fall-out with interest. As ads go, this is doing little but harm, so far, to one of P&G’s major brand properties. If i were them, i would be asking some very searching questions right now as to how this happened: and if i were LB or Helimax, i’d probably be circling the wagons.
I predict unhappy days ahead in the world of FNCG advertising…